“Peace be with you!”

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THE FIRE THAT IS THE SPIRIT. Acts of the Apostles (1: 14) narrates that the Holy Spirit descends upon the first Christian community. Artwork rendered by Br Paul Aldrin Dungca, SDB.

I have fallen in love with Eucharist—the subject—last semester.

Not only because of the sweet thought that I shall be leading the people in celebrating it in the near future (if God so wills it) but also because the teacher who handled the course captivated us in more ways than one: no highfaluting dogma that turned us off, no esoteric language that baffled our minds, and what is best is that there were no weekly quizzes that burdened us. Not to mention that the last hour was left with us in order for us to do our … readings.

Also, he spoke in that brand of English that was so familiar with almost everyone in the class. And he taught us not just the subject, but passed on to us the spirituality of a would-be minister who proclaims Christ’s Word to the people of a priest in the offing whose hands would be instrumental in transforming the bread to Christ’s body.

His examples are culled from his experiences of organizing liturgical celebrations and his many years of exposure in various parishes in the archdiocese which also, at many times, served as examples for a laudable or regrettable celebration of the Eucharist (I think that it’s the latter that figured out more often).

It was in one session of that class when I raised my hand up to ask our teacher whether it is appropriate for a Mass celebrant to greet the congregation “Good morning (or afternoon or evening), brothers and sisters” even after the rubrical greeting “Peace be with you” has already been conveyed.

His answer was a succinct “No,” but backed up his mono-syllabic answer with an idea which I render this way “Perhaps, a priest adds conventional greeting because he is not convinced with the efficacy of that expression used to begin the celebration. But no secular salutation could ever surpass—nor equal that ‘Peace be with you’ greeting.”

Pentecost: the Spirit descends

This Sunday, the Church celebrates the Solemn Feast of the Pentecost, that remarkable event which changed the landscape of the history of humanity when the Holy Spirit came down upon the disciples, who eventually “turned the world upside down,” as how Acts 17:6 depicts them.

In the first reading, the author of the Acts of the Apostles rendered the Holy Spirit concrete through the forms of   “violent wind” and “tongues of fire,” packing the first 11 verses of the second chapter with thrill and excitement.

But that is not all. The Holy Spirit also filled the emboldened disciples—enabling them to speak in various languages, as He gave them power to express themselves (Acts 2:4).

Meanwhile, in the gospel account of John, we hear Jesus utters the greeting “Peace be with you” before the group of disciples holed up in one house, all afraid, due to the persecution that awaits them.

The salutation “Peace be with you” is not an empty wish, but a statement of fact. Jesus did not just merely pray for a blessing, His words have the power to bring it about.

This was the experience of His disciples who were afraid, but His twice greeting them (in vv. 19 and 21), suddenly brought peace in the midst of turmoil; their fear vanished and was replaced with joy.

Once, an old lady

This experience of the disciples reminds me as well of that old lady whom I met in one Bible sharing when I was doing BEC (Basic Ecclesial Community) in a parish where I was assigned. We held the BEC in her house one Sunday morning and those seven of us who were present could barely fit inside.

When it was her turn to share, she revealed that she did not have the chance to establish a family of her own. She has an adopted son who has since left her to start his own family. She used to work. But since hitting the retirement age, has just to fend for herself. At late-60’s, she is just all by herself. At that point, my eyes were already welling up with tears.

At this point, she spoke about how grateful she is to God for blessing her. She cannot ask for more. The riches—or its absence—does not bother her. For her, God alone suffices. She has found peace in God.

Christ died on the cross and breathed the Holy Spirit that we may come to enjoy not just the state of serenity we all yearn to have, but also, and more importantly, to be intimately united with the Father who is not just the source of all peace, but Peace Himself.

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